Help me find the knee in the curve
I've been reading for a while but this is my first post. I'm afraid that this is another one of those "which tank should I buy?" type posts, but I'm hoping that you'll share some of your experience with me.
To give you a little background, I've been out of the aquarium world for ten years or so and never had an extensively planted tank. However, recently I'be been thinking about getting back into it. My interest was piqued when I ran across Fluval Edges on sale for a significant discount. Unfortunately (?) they all sold out before I completed my research so now I'm looking at other options. I tend to suffer from requirements creep, so I'm trying to not go too fancy, but still get something that is flexible and that I won't want to immediately upgrade. Cost is not a huge constraint, but I still want to hit a good performance/dollar point.
My goal is a tank that I can fit on my desk, I'm thinking 4-8 gallons, that has good performance and aesthetics for a reasonable price. I'd like it to be fairly low maintenance, and I'm not planning on including CO2 injection, at least not to begin with. Right now, I'm planning mostly mosses and hairgrass with shrimp and either a dwarf puffer, scarlet badis, or some celestial pearl danios. The all in one sleek units like the Edge and Spec V appeal to me but I know that often times the "kit" isn't the best bang for your buck. Also, I'm an engineer so I'm not opposed to making modifications/additions/subtractions as required.
Here are some of the options I'm considering along with my perceived pros and cons.
Fluval Edge: ~$125
Pros: Looks great, all-in-one convenience
Cons: Expensive, limited lighting options, maintenance might be a bear, I've heard that the novelty wears off
Fluval Spec V ~$80
Pros: Still looks pretty good, all in one, I like the longer, narrow rectangular shape
Cons: May need to replace stock light, I've heard mixed reviews on the filtration
Schuber Wright Mini 66 4 gallon ~$115
Pros: Good lighting
Cons: On the smaller side, requires addition of filter
Eheim Aquastyle 6 gallon ~$112
Pros: Good lighting, looks good
Cons: Internal filter takes up room, possibly not as effective as an external?
CAD Light Aquarium 8 gallon Starfire series ~$160.00
Pros: Seem-less Starfire glass, integrated filter compartment, high power light (180 PAR @ 6"), rimless
Cons: There aren't a lot of reviews out there from freshwater users, light might be TOO bright for low maintenance, 12" cube form factor not as appealing to me as the longer rectangles
Schuber Wright 4 gallon low iron w/ HOB filter & Fugeray light ~$90
Pros: Good glass, more future proof with separate light and filter, rimless
Cons: lower capacity, not as "sleek" as all in one units
Finnex low iron 7.5 gal w/FugeRay Planted+ light ~$93
Pros: Good glass, good light, future proof, rimless
Cons: 12" cube form factor, need to buy a filter
NanoSky 7 gal high clarity ~$100
Pros: good glass, good size, complete package, rimless
Cons: Not many reviews, included HOB filter and clip-on light look "cluttered"
Last but not least.
Mr. Aqua 6 gal long ~$65 + $50 light + $25 Rapids mini canister = ~$140
Pros: Most room to aquascape, looks great, longer length may allow for more active fish like neon tetras?
Cons: Expensive, I'd probably have to make a lid so I don't accidentally knock stuff into it with it's low height, high evaporation, too much light for low maintenance?, more complicated setup
I intentionally didn't include acrylic tanks because I don't want to worry about the scratching. Right now the Spec, Edge, and 6 gallon long are my leading candidates, but I'm happy to hear other suggestions as well. I think that's about it, hopefully I wasn't too long winded. Thanks for your time and assistance.